Iran Skirts Sanctions With Ships Shell Game
US struggling to keep up with shipping dodges
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2010 6:21 AM CDT
Israeli soldiers unpack rockets seized by Israeli authorities on a ship near Cyprus late last year.    (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
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(Newser) – As the UN prepares to vote on fresh sanctions against Iran, a New York Times investigation finds that the Islamic republic has evaded sanctions with an elaborate scheme of renaming ships and selling them to shell companies. Irisl, Iran's state-owned shipping firm, has sold off most of its fleet to companies in places like Hong Kong, Cyprus, and the Isle of Man, but almost all of those firms are either run by or owned by Irisl officials, the Times finds.

Irisl has replaced the Iranian flags on many ships and given them innocuous-sounding English names like Bluebell. The US has warned that some of the ships are being used to dodge American bans on exporting military technology to Iran, but the complex network of shell companies is making it difficult to keep the blacklist up to date. "We are dealing with people who are as smart as we are, and of course they can read our list," notes the Treasury official overseeing the sanctions effort.